gaza boats 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel plans to interdict a boatfull of far-left wing protesters if it crosses into Israeli territorial waters on its way to Gaza to "break" Israel's blockade, senior government officials said Monday.
The Free Gaza movement is planning to set sail Tuesday from Cyprus to Gaza, for the second such demonstration since August. Israel, eager to avoid a well-publicized incident on the high seas and believing the protesters were just seeking a provocation, allowed the protesters in two boats to make their way to Gaza then, but has no plans to tolerate a repeat performance this time, the officials said.
The officials said the decision to stop the boat was made last month at the "highest governmental levels," just prior to plans by the protesters to set sail on what would have been their second protest voyage.
Among the 26 passengers expected on board the boat this time are five physicians, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, who has been involved in the protests at Nil'in, MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti.
"This second trip is just one of many we intend to organize over the next year," said American volunteer Greta Berlin. "We have lawyers, members of parliament and other professionals already on our passenger lists for upcoming voyages." The group said it would be carrying medicines.
Israeli officials said the decision to interdict the ship was taken because in August the group "exploited" the fact it was not barred from Gaza and demonstrated in Gaza on behalf of Hamas and were used by Hamas for propaganda purposes.
The source said if the group was going to create a provocation against Israel regardless of whether they are stopped on the high seas or allowed into Gaza, Israel might as well stop them before they can reach shore.
Israel made clear in August, when it did allow in the first two boats, that this was not a blanket policy, but rather that it would evaluate each incident separately.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report
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